These be the words which the LORD did there confound the language of electrical systems.
Afternoon, May 14, 2017
New York City
Stefan had the most useless job at the entire United Nations – which was saying something. He and Ben stood outside of the door of a UN office building all day, checked everybody’s badges, and denied them entry if their badges were wrong. They never were.
A man separated from the stream of pedestrian traffic and walked up to Ben. “Excusa me!” he said in a heavy Spanish accent. “I am from the el Mexico! I no can able poder read English the bueno! You to read directions for me please, por favor?”
Ben gave a heavy sigh and took the paper from the man. “It says to take the bus from Times Square to an Indian restaurant called Raja Horah – ”
Ben burst into flames, then fell over dead.
“Moron,” said the man, without a trace of an accent.
Stefan’s hand flew to the gun he kept on his waist, but before he could reach it somebody grabbed him from behind and sliced his throat.
“Nice work,” said Dylan. Madegbuena grinned disconcertingly. “The rest of you hanging in there okay?”
Four people who couldn’t speak without breaking their spell of invisibility awkwardly resisted nodding.
“Right!” said Dylan. “I’m at the front. Erica’s at the back, because I can talk to her mentally and so we can communicate and steer you people together. No talking until we’re in front of Ngo’s office. Let’s roll.”
He groped around until he found the harness linking the six of them, then spoke the Spectral Name and disappeared.
They made it through the atrium, up a staircase, and about ten paces into the second-floor corridor when the lights all went out at once.
There were no windows. The building was pitch black.
For a second, they all just stood there.
“What now, boss?” Clark finally asked.
“I thought I told you to shut your mouth and stay invisible.”
“Not like anyone can see us now.”
“It’s the principle of the thing. Anyway, I have a flashlight in my pocket…one second…there.”
It remained pitch black.
“Okay, the guy who sold me this flashlight is super dead.”
“Dylan,” said Mark. “My watch isn’t working. It usually has a light function.”
“Okaaaay,” said Dylan. “So, the world has been plunged into eternal darkness.”
“Wait,” said McCarthy. “You were going to bring a radio, right? To listen in on the police? Turn it on.”
Alvarez took a little ham radio out of his pocket and turned it on. Nothing.
“Electricity’s not working,” said Mark. “Maybe no technology is.”
“What’s going on?” It wasn’t any of their voices. Some sort of UN employee? A janitor?
“Ah,” said Dylan, “we’re the maintenance crew. There’s been some kind of big electrical failure. We’ll be taking care of it, but until we do I want everybody to stay in their offices. We should have power back within the hour.” He spoke confidently. For some reason Erica felt reassured even though she knew he was lying. A door closed shut; the employee seemed reassured also.
“Dylan,” said Clark, “fire your gun. Straight down. Somewhere it won’t hit anything.”
“Just do it.”
There was a conspicuous absence of gunshot.
“Oh, for the LOVE OF GOD,” said Dylan. “I try to do ONE good assassination, and it HAS TO be on the day guns stop working. This is RIDICULOUS and I want to SPEAK TO A MANAGER.”
Mark’s voice, clear and strong. Nine syllables. The Luminous Name. What would normally have been a pale sphere of light appeared as a brilliant ball of crackling fire.
Dylan looked at it lovingly, like an old friend. Very gradually, his face twisted into a smile.
“This was you guys, during the dress rehearsal,” he said, and changed his voice to a feminine whine. “Oooooh, Sohu West appearing in the middle of our mission, that’s stupid. Oooooh, you’re making us prepare for too many outlandish things that will never happen. Well – ” He changed back to his regular voice. “Here we are. Electricity’s stopped working. Guns have stopped working. And your instincts are perfect. Mark, mi compadre, you are exactly correct. We switch tactics. We use the Names. UNSONG has imprisoned the Names for too long, and so today the Names will take their revenge on UNSONG. God hath delivered them into our hands.”
Alvarez’s radio crackled to life, at first wordlessly, and then in the clear accents of a news broadcaster: “I’ve just been told radio has been restored. If you’re hearing this, radio has been restored. According to our sources, the Other King has destroyed the Archangel Uriel with a kabbalistic missile, causing all technology to stop working worldwide. Uh, except radio. Which has somehow been restored. If radio continues to function we will try to keep you updated as more comes in.”
Dylan shut off the radio.
“Holy Mother of God,” said Clark. “I’m not a Bible-reading man, but I am almost positive it’s bad news to nuke an archangel.”
“We are BOOJUM,” said Dylan. “For us, chaos is never bad news. Let’s find Malia. Mark, Luminous Name. Everyone else, back to being invisible.”
Lit by the fireball hovering above Mark’s invisible forehead, they made their way down a long UN corridor until they came to a door marked DIRECTOR, UNSONG.
Dylan flung it open as hard as he could.
Malia Ngo sat at her desk. A bare desk, just a few sheets of paper and a metal nameplate reading MALIA NGO, DIRECTOR-GENERAL. She was dressed in a dark red pantsuit and her trademark pearl necklace. She had paperwork in front of her, but didn’t seem to be working on it. She seemed to be waiting. Behind her was a window. The sky seemed unnaturally dark for this hour of the afternoon, and flames peeked out of some of the skyscrapers.
Six assassins uncoupled their harness.
Before Dylan could give any kind of a monologue, Erica pushed her way forward, broke her invisibility, and spoke.
“We are the Singers. We – ”
“I am UNSONG,” said Malia.
“We have come to free the thousand thousand Names of God.”
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.”
“You can’t – ” said Erica, but before she could finish her sentence, Ngo wheeled around in her chair just in time to face Madegebuena, who had appeared behind her with a knife. She deftly seized the weapon, then stabbed him in the throat. He fell to the ground. A sword of dark fire appeared in Ngo’s hands.
“That’s it,” said Dylan Alvarez, breaking his invisibility. “I challenge you to a placebomantic duel!”